DevOps Culture Anti-pattern: Manual Processes

Automation is the force multiplier that makes a DevOps effort so powerful. While it requires the technical skill and know-how to create frameworks for automating processes in an organization, an automation-first mindset is not easy to start out with. The rest of the DevOps anti-patterns are all about different modes of thinking and this one is no different.

Operations and Support lives in the domain of unplanned work. Identifying the sources of unplanned efforts through visual stream mapping exercises and looking at the total flow of the system can help signal areas where automation can provide value to a team and organization. But sometimes the wrong thought patterns get in our heads and we start hearing statements like this:

  • “It will just be faster for me to do it than show someone else how to do it.”
  • “I don’t trust the machine or system to do it right each time.”
  • “It will take too long to to write a script for that.”
  • “That can’t be automated.”

To combat this mode of thinking, look for ways to pair different engineers to follow along in a process and document the steps. Sometimes, manual efforts can be very fast, but the point is to create a documentation method that actually becomes the framework for automation. Documentation then allows another person to run through the steps and validate that it is complete and accurate.

Even if not all of the steps of a process can be automated, it helps to take something manual and reduce the manual steps “footprint” in the system. A script or process automated in one area often yields rewards in another. Automation is not just about the time saved doing a technical task. It can protect from manual mistakes, help with governance, ensure compliance, improve team resiliency, and increase visibility.

Most importantly, the time saved is valuable. Always look for ways to “buy back” time to allow for the addition of newer and more interesting work to be handed to your teams. It would be a shame if management comes up to you asking “we have this neat project to give to your team” and your response is along the lines of “we can’t because we’re too busy”. Automation becomes the force multiplier for an organization and team that allows them to increase their capacity to handle work without requiring additional resources.